Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Great City Needs a Great Maker Space

     A maker space is like a community center.  They have tools, technology, and various art and manufacturing equipment.  They are wonderful places where people can play, create and learn.  Maker spaces create new opportunities for the public.

     There are No actual maker spaces in Nashville today.  However, there are organizations which have some maker space elements.  There is a co-working space for makers called Fort Houston. Most of the clientele right now seem to be small businesses.  I think a similar space is being built.  Although these have maker space elements they are not complete maker spaces. There is also studio NPL run by Nashville Public Library but it is only for teens.  Because it's geared for minors the programs are very directed.  Hacker Consortium, Bon Homme Collectif and many others maker spaces have all gone defunct.  Similar to libraries, they are tricky to monetize without nonprofit funding (grants, gov support, others) 

     Maker spaces should be: 
  • Accessible- reasonable price points for individuals
  • Self Directed- people learn and create the things they choose 
  • Welcoming- communities with egalitarian cultures
  • With outreach to under-served populations
    We were able to hear from Rice University and Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt on Friday about the surprising advantages of maker spaces. 

    Some of the advantages they have found that maker spaces:
  • Aid in retention
  • Make the curriculum stronger
  • Let people access tools and skills they would not be able to reach otherwise
  • Seem to improve gender parity and increase confidence in underrepresented populations
  • Matches the outline of ways students tell us they most like to learn with hands on real world experience as opposed to lecture
...And the artists they attract increase the rate of revitalization of blighted areas.

     Make Nashville is wanting to establish a maker space and they have been working on it four years.  They have gained traction by having a kick starter.  They ask individuals to give $100 to become a founding member. If they could get 40 people to give then they would receive a dollar for dollar match.  They now have 56 people, including the founder of JS Foundary. This opportunity closes December 31.

     Make Nashville has several pieces of donated lab and maker equipment and donated furniture. They have funding. They are currently seeking space.  If you would like to help support this movement you can donate at:

If you aren't in Nashville but want to get your geek on:


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Learn all the Things!

I was recently approached to build a website for pay.  The person who was negotiating to hire me told me he had no idea how technology worked and I felt sorry for him.  Not knowing technology is a little like not knowing how to read.  So I said I would happily teach him how to build a website.  It is not difficult.  He replied, "You are the geek, you do it."

This was a shock to me.  Later, I was sharing the story with a friend who codes in Python full time.  He said, "Congratulations you are now a programmer."  While I am delighted to be a part of the "club", I am dismayed that people wouldn't want to give this a try.

This reticence to try new things which develops in adulthood for many people is another good reason students should be taught coding from the moment they can read and write.  If they have a chance to familiarize themselves with these skills I believe they would be more likely to take it up later when they are grown.

Education is not about producing widgets for corporate America to use up.  Education is about passing on the collective soul of our community to the next generation.  Children need exposure to many disciplines and skills so they can find and hone their unique giftedness to share with society.

Since school time is so limited it is possible that many of us will not discover our knack during that time.  That is why I would like to encourage us to not only enrich the school experience for children but enrich the educational experience for ourselves.  Too many adults allow society to push them into a cubby and allow their work to define them.  Many of them never open another book after high school or learn another skill they aren't required to learn.  Not good.

Attend a class you have never attended, try something you have never tried before and meet people you have never met before.  I have found that when I do this it opens up all kinds of opportunities, gives me a store of skills I may someday need qnd it makes me happy.  Unlike storing items these skills do not take up any physical space.  We can keep them for the someday which rolls around more often than you might think.

The best place to start learning programming on your own is with Scratch. Here is a resource which may help.